'Sit-lie bill' sparks debate about homeless on sidewalks

'Sit-lie bill' sparks debate about homeless on sidewalks »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A bill that would allow cities to ban sitting or lying on sidewalks is sparking debate among Portland’s homeless and some business owners, who say the law couldn’t come fast enough.

The “sit-lie bill,” pushed by the Portland Business Alliance, would change state law to allow cities to impose the bans. The highly contested issued was ruled unconstitutional by a county judge three years ago.

Currently, Portland enforces pedestrian-use zones, which means no one can sit or lie on certain parts of the sidewalk, while allowing you to be horizontal in other spots of the sidewalk.

The bill, if passed, wouldn’t overhaul city laws. It would simply give cities the discretion and freedom to impose these sidewalk ordinances.

One homeless man, who wouldn’t give his name but said he goes by ’99,’ said Monday he wasn’t aware of the current ordinance. 

“What’s the difference from me over there to over here?” he said.

The man said he already feels targeted because of how he’s dressed and because he’s homeless. So the idea of making sidewalk restrictions even stricter has him crying foul.

Some business owners, though, say the bill is much overdue. Dustin Knox, the owner of Uncle Dick’s Deep Fried Hot Dogs in downtown Portland, said folks frequently sit outside his restaurant, causing him to lose patrons.

“I’ve been spit at,” Knox said. “I’ve had blood spit in my face.”

Just a few minutes after Knox’s interview with KATU, we saw him confronting a man outside his restaurant. The man was yelling and running around the sidewalk.

Organizations against reviving the sidewalk restrictions say they’re not advocating violence or loitering. They’re proponents for people like ‘99’ who simply want to sit.

When asked about the sit-lie bill, officials with the Portland mayor’s office said it wouldn’t be a top priority to impose a ban should the state law allow them to do so.